Cape Town Highlanders Regiment

The Cape Town Highlanders Regiment (Gonnema Regiment) is a mechanised infantry regiment of the South African Army. As a reserve unit, it has a status roughly equivalent to that of a British Army Reserve or United States Army National Guard unit.

Cape Town Highlanders
Cape Town Highlanders Regiment insignia.jpg
SANDF Cape Town Highlanders Regiment emblem
Founded24 April 1885; 134 years ago (1885-04-24)
Country South Africa
Branch South African Army
RoleMechanised infantry
SizeOne battalion
Part ofSouth African Infantry Formation
Army Conventional Reserve
Garrison/HQCastle Barracks, Cape Town, South Africa
MarchQuick: Cock o' the North
Anniversaries24 April (Regimental Day)
Battle honours
Bechuanaland 1896-97
South Africa 1899-1902
South West Africa 1915
Western Desert 1941-43
Alem Hamza
Best Post
Alamein Defence
Alamein Box
El Alamein
Italy 1944-45
Casino II
The Greve
Gothic Line
Monte Stanco
Monte Pezza
Po Valley
Alem el Halfa
Not Awarded
Egypt 1916
Somme 1916
Delville Wood
Ypres 1917
Menin Road
Messines 1918
Hindenburg Line
Cambrai 1918
Pursuit to Mons
France and Flanders 1918
Le Transloy
Scarpe 1917
Lt Col Marthinus Lott
Colonel of the RegimentColonel P. McLoughlin PVD, SM, MMM
Company level InsigniaSA Army Company Insignia.png
SA Mechanised Infantry beret bar circa 1992
SA mechanised infantry beret bar circa 1992



Descendants of Scottish immigrants to South Africa raised the Cape Town Highlanders in 1885. On 24 April of the same year, their services were accepted – since then, this date has always been celebrated as the regiment's official birthday.

Bechuanaland CampaignEdit

The regiment first saw active duty during the Bechuanaland Campaign that was fought in the Northern Cape in 1896.

Anglo-Boer WarEdit

At the outbreak of the Second Anglo-Boer War the regiment was again mobilised for active duty. During the war the regiment or elements thereof took part in several actions, including the relief of Kimberley.

Volunteer eraEdit

The Duke of Connaught and Strathearn became colonel-in-chief of the regiment in 1906, and the regiment's name was thus changed to the Duke of Connaught and Strathearn's Own Cape Town Highlanders.

With the Union Defence ForceEdit

When the regiment was embodied in the Union Defence Force (UDF) Citizen Force in 1913, the title was changed to 6th Infantry (Duke of Connaught and Strathearn's Own Cape Town Highlanders).

World War 1Edit

During World War I the Cape Town Highlanders first fought against Germany in German South-West Africa, but was subsequently combined with the Transvaal Scottish Regiment to form the 4th South African Infantry (South African Scottish) Regiment, part of the 1st South African Brigade. (The South African Scottish, like various similar units, was formed by the South African government since a clause in the Defence Act of that time prohibited existing units from serving so far outside the country's borders.) After fighting in the Senussi Campaign in North Africa the brigade was shipped to France, where it took part in many battles between 1916 and 1918, including the famous Battle of Delville Wood. During its time on the Western Front, the South African Brigade and its Scottish heritage 4th Battalion, first served a lengthy stint with the British 9th (Scottish) Division, and following the Brigade's decimation in March 1918, was reconstituted and incorporated in September into the 66th (2nd East Lancashire) Division until the end of the war.

The title was changed again, in 1932, to Cape Town Highlanders (Duke of Connaught and Strathearn's Own).

World War 2Edit

At the outbreak of World War II in 1939 the regiment was again mobilised. However, it did not fight in the first campaign of the South African Army in the war, the Abyssinian Campaign of 1940 to 1941. However, in mid-1941, the regiment was briefly sent to Egypt to escort thousands of Italian prisoners of war to internment camps in South Africa; it returned to Egypt in late June of the same year to join the newly arrived South African 1st Infantry Division in the Western Desert.

The Cape Town Highlanders fought in all of the major battles of the Western Desert Campaign, including the Battle of El Alamein. Indeed, the regiment is one of only three in the world (all of them South African) to have not only the usual two Alamein battle honours – "Alamein Defence" and "El Alamein" – but a third, "Alamein Box", which resulted from a separate action during the initial defence. This action played a significant role in halting Rommel's advance on the tired and depleted British Eighth Army.

During the regiment's subsequent deployment to Italy, the regiment was temporarily combined with South Africa's senior Scottish unit, the First City Regiment, to form the First City/Cape Town Highlanders. This combined unit fought from Battle of Monte Cassino to the Alps, culminating in the heroic capture at bayonet-point of the strategic peak of Monte Sole as part of the South African 6th Armoured Division.

In 1947, Queen Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother) was appointed colonel-in-chief, and from 1948 until South Africa became a republic in 1961, the regiment was the Queen's Own Cape Town Highlanders.

With the SADFEdit

Border WarEdit

The first significant post-war action of the Cape Town Highlanders took place in January 1976, during Operation Savannah. This was the first large-scale incursion by the South African Defence Force (SADF) into Angola during the 23-year-long "Border War" in South-West Africa (now Namibia). During the following years the regiment was mobilised several times, including for Operation Prone and others.The last mobilisation during this period occurred in October 1988.

With the SANDFEdit

The regiment was mobilised in April 1994 as part of the efforts by the South African National Defence Force to ensure a peaceful first fully democratic election.

As a result of the subsequent abolition of conscription and the transformation of the South African Army, the Cape Town Highlanders Regiment returned to its original form of a volunteer regiment.

In 2000 a contingent of the Cape Town Highlanders Regiment attended the Queen Mother's 100th birthday and paraded the regiment's Colour on Horse Guards Parade. The Drums and Pipes participated in a special parade centenary for the Queen Mother in Edinburgh, and carried on to participate in the Edinburgh Military Tattoo. With the death of the Queen Mother in 2002, the regiment sent a contingent to participate in her funeral procession. The Drums and Pipes have since performed regularly at the Edinburgh Military Tattoo (2002, 2004, 2006, 2009 and 2012). In 2006, they were invited, together with the Queensland Police Pipe Band and 4 bands from the new Royal Regiment of Scotland to perform at Balmoral Castle for the Royal Family. The Band has also participated in the Basel Tattoo, The Berlin Military Tattoo, Jinhae (South Korea) and at the Cape Town Tattoo, held in the Castle of Good Hope.

Name ChangeEdit

In August 2019, 52 Reserve Force Units had their names changed to reflect the current SANDFs diversity.[2]

This units name was then changed to Gonnema Regiment.

Current CapabilityEdit

The regiment is currently a mechanised infantry regiment in the SANDF and has sent members as part of the Peace keeping contingent to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Burundi. It has also taken part in internal deployments in support of the police as well as protecting the border.[3]

The weekend of 24 April 2015 saw the 130 year anniversary of the Cape Town Highlanders Regiment's creation, marked by Regimental celebration dinners, the exercising of the unit's right to the Freedom of the City in Cape Town, as well as a medal and church parade.

Regimental symbolsEdit

  • Regimental tartan: The Gordon regimental tartan from the clan Gordon as previously worn by The Gordon Highlanders; it is the only regiment in the world to wear the kilt in this tartan.[4]
  • Regimental mottos: The regiment has two mottos. The first, "Nemo Me Impune Lacessit", is in Latin and means "No Man Challenges me with Impunity"; it is used by several Scottish regiments. The second, "Bydand", is in Doric and means "Steadfast". This motto was unique to The Gordon Highlanders and the Cape Town Highlanders. However, with the amalgamation of The Gordon Highlanders with other Scottish units, this motto has fallen into disuse by them; the Cape Town Highlanders still uses it on a shield that also bears a stag's head which is worn on the ceremonial sporran by those with the rank of corporal and below.
  • Regimental quick march: The regimental quick march is "Cock o' the North"; it was also the march of The Gordon Highlanders and commemorates the Marquess of Huntly, son of the Duke of Gordon, whose nickname was the "Cock o' The North".

Previous Dress InsigniaEdit

Cape Town Highlanders glengarry
UDF era WW1 South African Scottish or 4th Infantry Regiment beret badge

During WW1 the Union Defence Force established the 4th Infantry Regiment which was unique in that it was the South African Scottish, raised from the Transvaal Scottish and the Cape Town Highlanders, and wearing the Atholl Murray tartan. This regiment's collar badges were identical to those of the Cape Town Highlanders but bore the Latin motto "Mors Lucrum Mihi" (Death is my reward) in place of the usual Cape Town Highlander wording. (Death is my Reward), was the family motto of the first Officer Commanding SA Scottish, a Lieutenant-Colonel F.A. Jones.

SANDF Cape Town Highlanders insignia

Current Dress InsigniaEdit

SANDF era Infantry Formation insignia


The unit wears black instead of brown boots a mark of mourning for a Scottish soldier, Major-General Sir John Moore, Commander of the Highland Brigade

Two types of headgear, the khaki Balmoral bonnet and the Glengarry, which is blue with red-and-white dicing. The Balmoral is worn during daytime as a general working headdress, regardless of the order of dress being worn or whether the wearer is in barracks or in the field, although in the latter case it is sometimes replaced by a bush-hat or helmet. The glengarry is worn for walking out; on ceremonial, mess and social occasions; and after Retreat has been sounded at 18h00.

Officers carry an ash-plant walking stick on all occasions except mess and other formal functions; or when armed with a claymore or rifle.

Non-commissioned officers are entitled to carry a "swagger stick" as a mark of their important status in the Regiment.

No officer or NCO may eat before his men have eaten.


Battle honoursEdit


The Cape Town Highlanders Regiment has the following battle honours on its regimental colours:

The "Lost" coloursEdit

The South African Union Defence Act of 1914 prohibited the deployment of South African troops beyond the borders of the South Africa and its immediate neighbouring territories. To send troops to Europe to support the Commonwealth in World War I, Generals Botha and Smuts created the South African Overseas Expeditionary Force. However, because of the limitations of the Defence Act, they issued a General Order (Order 672 of 1915) which stated that The South African Overseas Expeditionary Force will be Imperial and have the status of regular British Troops. "Status" was meant to imply administrative purposes, as Britain was paying for the maintenance of the force in the field for the sake of local political sensitivities.[5]

On 8 June 1916 the Adjutant General's office at Defence Headquarters issued a note stating:

....the force is raised locally for the purpose of assisting the Imperial Authorities...and it amounts to the Union Government having allowed the Imperial Authorities to recruit men in South Africa for this it is certainly not raised under the Defence Act of the Union of South Africa, and this being the case, the Union Government can grant no commissions. Any such commissions will be of temporary nature and will lapse at the conclusion of hostilities.[5]

As such, the below colours were awarded to the Unit, but because of the unit being an "Imperial Unit" at the stage of award, the right to bear the colours lapsed at the end of hostilities.[5]

The fifteen "missing" battle honours awarded for service in France and Flanders to the 4th South African Infantry (South African Scottish) battalion include some of the most famous in South Africa's military history:


From Colonel-In-Chief To
1906 Duke of Connaught and Strathearn 1942
1942 Vacant 1947
1947 Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother 1961
From Honorary Colonel To
1906 Colonel R. Solomon VD 1930
1932 Colonel H.J.C Stephan 1970
1972 Colonel G.W. Thomas JCD MC 1980
1984 Vice-Admiral J. Johnson SSA SM DSC 1 April 2020
From Colonel of the Regiment To
1 April 2020 Col (Hon) Denzil M. Loveland ED 1 April 2020
1 April 2020 Col (Hon) P. McLoughlin PVD SM MMM Present
From Commanding Officer[6] To
1885 Maj. J. Scott 1890
1890 Maj. D. Baker 1891
1891 Maj. J. Scott 1892
1892 Lt Col. Sir James Sivewright KCMG 1894
1894 Lt Col. J. Scott 1895
1895 Lt Col. B.M. Duff ISO VD 1900
1901 Lt Col. W. Standford MVO DSO VD 1914
1914 Lt Col. H.E. Tennant VD 1921
1921 Lt Col. J. Cran 1925
1925 Lt Col. R. Hallack 1928
1928 Lt Col. W.D. Hearn MC VD 1937
1937 Lt Col. H.L. Sumner MC MM VD 1941
1941 Lt Col. W. Crewe-Brown 1942
12 February 1942 Lt Col. S.E.V. Quin 6 May 1942
7 May 1942 Maj. A.S. Duncan 23 July 1942
24 July 1942 Lt Col. S.E.V. Quin MBE 30 April 1943
7 May 1943 Lt Col. A.S. Duncan 4 October 1943
5 October 1943 Lt Col. O.N. Flemmer 15 July 1944
16 July 1944 Lt Col. A.S. Duncan DSO 16 April 1945
1945 Lt Col. W.S. Douglas MC ED 1953
1953 Lt Col. G.W.Thomas JCD MC 1957
1957 Lt Col. D.M. Loveland ED 1961
1961 Lt Col. C. St L. Hone JCD 1966
1966 Lt Col. C.C.C. Albertyn JCD 1972
1972 Lt Col. C. O'Brien SM 1979
1979 Lt Col. D.J. Plane SM 1984
1984 Lt Col. A.M. Marriner JCD 1989
1989 Lt Col. Bernie Ashlin MMM JCD 2000
2000 Lt Col. Brad Geyser MMM JCD 2006
2006 Lt Col. Andre van der Bijl 1 March 2014
1 March 2014 Lt Col. Marthinus Lott Present
From Regimental Sergeant Major[7] To
1885 J. Walls 1894
1895 RSM MacFarlane, October[a] 1896
1 February 1896 J. Grant 27 October 1897
28 September 1887 W. Mitchell[b] 11 March 1900
12 March 1900 W. Matthews 11 March 1901
12 March 1901 J.A. Windrum[c] 8 July 1901
1 July 1902 W. Mitchell 30 May 1903
1904 S.H. Reynard 1911
1911 H.W. Rochfort 1915
1915 J. Brennan 1922
1922 C.F. Windrum 1941
1942 S.F. Schwormstedt 1943
1943 G.W.H. West[d] 1945
1946 WO1 S.F. Schwormstedt 1960
1960 WO1 R.B. Lowton JCD 1969
1970 WO1 B.P. Feldman JCD 1985
1986 WO1 A.H. Silva JCD 1991
1991 WO1 Charles A.R. de Cruz CM JCD with 30 Yr Clasp[e] 1999
1999 MWO Barry M. Snowball JCD 2006
2006 SWO Joe Koen 31 October 2012
1 November 2012 MWO Alfie Wort Present


  1. ^ Initials unknown
  2. ^ Commissioned during SA War
  3. ^ Enlisted in Colonial Regular Forces
  4. ^ During FC/CTH amalgamation
  5. ^ Later commissioned and promoted to Major


  1. ^ "SND: Bydand". Archived from the original on 17 January 2012. Retrieved 6 October 2010.
  2. ^
  3. ^ Helfrich, Kim. "Reserves add value to Army operations". DefenceWeb. Retrieved 27 October 2014. Operation Corona deployment comprising a battalion of Western Cape Army Reserve Force units drawn from the Cape Town Rifles and the Cape Town Highlanders Regiment.
  4. ^ The regimental pipe bands of The Calgary Highlanders and The Toronto Scottish Regiment use Gordon tartan for pipe ribbons and bag covers, respectively.
  5. ^ a b c Digby, Peter. K. Pyramids and Poppies: the 1st SA Infantry Brigade in Libya, France and Flanders: 1915 -1919 1993, Ashanti, Rivonia. Pg 416
  6. ^ "Commanding Officers". Cape Town Highlanders. Archived from the original on 6 March 2012. Retrieved 25 January 2015.
  7. ^ "Regimental Sgts Major". Cape Town Highlanders. Archived from the original on 6 March 2012. Retrieved 25 January 2015.

External linksEdit